It is over. Much to Barcelona’s dismay, the day has finally come. Headlines appeared the next morning that no fan wanted to hear. Lionel Messi is not a Barcelona player anymore.
After almost two decades, Messi is not Barcelona’s player anymore. His first contract was signed on a napkin in 2003. ; It was far from the prestige the public tends to tie to Lionel Messi’s name. A marriage that lasted, but ultimately was forced to end up in a divorce. Not that any of the two parties, not Lionel nor Barcelona requested for the divorce. Instead, a third party, the Pope of Spanish of football was behind the divorce; La Liga, or better said, Javier Tebas.
Joan Laporta, Barcelona’s current president, had centered his electoral campaign around Messi’s renewal: Convinced Messi would be willing to continue for the club, member fans, socios, elected Joan Laporta, hoping he could get Leo to sign another contract. Perhaps does it feels for some fans that Laporta did not do enough. That his speeches were full of lies. That perhaps signing the likes of Memphis Depay, Sergio Agüero and Emerson Royal was irresponsible.
How did we get there?
However, Barcelona’s divorce is a conflict of interest. Not between Leo and the club, but between the latter and La Liga. Only a few months ago, the course of events broke the footballing scene. Much dreaded but not surprising, the Super League was announced. National leagues, such as the Premier League and La Liga communicated their discontent and even opposition to the project. Under threats of not being able to participate in domestic competitions anymore, most of the clubs backed out. Only two clubs in Spain held their initial stance: FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.
For Javier Tebas, President of La Liga, the ‘two villains’ had to be punished. Threatening to break free from La Liga’s rule to join ‘the big boys’ could seriously harm the league’s earnings, given how much investors take interest in Barcelona and Real Madrid. Economic giants could not break away without consequences: Javier Tebas had to keep both in La Liga while ensuring the dangerous escape would not be without consequences.
Furthermore, the CVC deal announced barely a few days ago harmed relationships between the two giants and La Liga. Neither of Barcelona or Real Madrid expressed positive feeling towards the investor. As part of the deal, La Liga would give up 10% of its benefits for the next five decades, while clubs would receive instant money.
Good or Bad deal?
A sum of 250M was heading for Barcelona, according to rumors. As good at this might seem in the first term, only 15% could be invested into transfers. With more money, Barcelona could indeed improve its infrastructure: Even if the club would find new players at low cost, Barcelona would not be able to register them.
In order for signings to be eligible to play, clubs have to register them. However, as Barcelona’s already meeting the current salary cap at 160M, there could be no new signings. Not even current players, including Lionel Messi. A more strict version of UEFA’s FFP.
Laporta Inherited this ‘Mess que un club”
Perhaps one could ask: But how did Barcelona land there? Couldn’t they prevent it? Rossell was elected, a decade ago: Since then, mismanagement was common, for personal gains, continued by Bartomeu as Rossell was caught up in corruption allegations that took him to the court. Nonetheless, his right hand Josep Maria Bartomeu continued his legacy: Players were signed for extravagant fees, (i.e Coutinho, Dembélé, Griezmann) and/or given enormous wages (Samuel Umtiti, Miralem Pjanic) without necessarily deserving it. Long story short, Bartomeu and Rossell used higher wages as a bargaining tool to ensure players would sign for the club, but causing Barcelona go slowly but surely towards the unknown and dangerous roads of bankruptcy.
“Player wages are 110% of the club’s income”.-Joan Laporta, at today’s press conference
A year ago, rumors said Barcelona had a deficit of 100M. A year later, losses have become worse, obviously accelerated by the lack of fans attending matches due to COVID restrictions, but it is more than clear that Barcelona’s mismanagement show deeper roots to the club’s financial issues. Laporta won the elections in March. His team seems to still be discovering the mess Bartomeu has left behind. To the world, this is the transparency fans wants in order to attempt to understand the mess that the club was going through. Most will still remember Messi’s famous Burofax almost a year ago, leading Bartomeu’s presidency to resign one month and a half later.
“What happened is that to offer 25M € , it was necessary to reduce by 100M € payroll. “-Joan Laporta, at today’s press conference
A theory behind today’s events could be that Laporta understood that cleaning the payroll by 100M was impossible in such a short amount of time, especially when high earners were unwilling to leave or even did not receive offers: For judicial reasons, Barcelona can not terminate the contracts, even if it had the money – which is does not have in any case.
What’s next for Leo Messi?
Now a free agent, Lionel Messi is will sign to PSG, according to recent rumors. It was a club that wanted him last year during the Burofax episode. With players like Riqui Puig and Gerard Piqué addressing their ex-captain a goodbye on Twitter, it is clear that Lionel will not continue. Now Paris seem to be the club most likely to receive the sextuple Ballon D’Or winner.
Here are the fans: Broken. And it would be delusion to say that players, Laporta or Messi himself are not. Where both parties had to part ways one day, it is how the player is leaving that hurts the most: Without a farewell, and against Leo’s will.